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Press Release

Former Teacher’s Aide Pleads Guilty to Attempting Online Enticement of a Minor to Engage in Sexual Conduct

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Kentucky

LEXINGTON, Ky. A Danville, Ky., woman, Ellen Phillips, formerly known as Ellen Shell, 38, pleaded guilty on Friday, before Chief U.S. District Judge Danny Reeves, to attempted online enticement of a minor to engage in sexual conduct.

Phillips, who at the time of her offenses was employed as a teacher’s aide, was conducting sexual relationships with numerous teenage boys in the Boyle and Garrard County areas. Phillips would communicate with the victims via Snapchat, Facebook, or text messaging and, in many instances, would meet the victims for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity.  According to Phillips’ plea, she engaged in sexual activity with multiple minors at the same time.

In her plea agreement, Phillips specifically admitted that on December 20, 2022, she attempted to entice a 15-year-old minor to engage in sexual activity.  In this conversation, Phillips messaged the victim using Facebook and repeatedly attempted to get the victim to sneak out of his house for sexual activity.  When the victim said he could not leave, Phillips offered alcohol and oral sex to the minor and offered excuses the victim could tell his mother as to why he needed to leave his home.

Carlton S. Shier, IV, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky; Rana Saoud, Special Agent in Charge, Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Phillip J. Burnett, Commissioner of the Kentucky State Police (KSP); Willie Skeens, Garrard County Sheriff; and Chief Tony Gray, Danville Police Department, jointly announced the guilty plea.

The investigation was conducted by the HSI, KSP, Garrard County Sheriff’s Office, and Danville Police Department.  The United States was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Erin Roth.

Phillips is scheduled to be sentenced on April 26. She faces a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of life in prison.  However, any sentence will be imposed by the Court, after its consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal sentencing statutes.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecuted this case as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by U.S. Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit



CONTACT:  Gabrielle Dudgeon

PHONE: (859) 685-4887


Updated January 12, 2024

Project Safe Childhood